It was a solemn day at the Salisbury Zoo last Thursday, when the 13-year-old female red wolf was found dead.
“It was sad for me because I was there for the opening of the wolf exhibit and for the huge surprise of her having five pups. It was a total shock to us that she was pregnant. We didn’t think the male was viable,” said Mary Seemann, director of marketing and development at the zoo.
“The bond for is so tight, especially for all of the employees who tend to the animals,” she said.
Affectionately known as Mom Wolf, she gave birth in May of 2008, and animal caretakers who discovered the pups nestled with her one morning joyfully radioed the good news to fellow employees.
One pup stayed at the zoo and the others were sent to North Carolina Zoological Park, Western North Carolina Nature Center and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.
Years ago, when the Poopsie, the oldest known spectacled bear in captivity, died at the zoo, there was a public celebration of her life. Seemann said nothing similar is planned for Mom Wolf, but she will always be dear to zoo employees.
Her pup is doing well and is now the only red wolf at the zoo, but the Red Wolf Coalition has been notified that the zoo would like to have a viable male to mate with her.
The older male who mated with Mom Wolf was released back into the wild, where he fathered more pups before he died, Seemann said.
It’s believed Mom Wolf ‘s death was the result of natural causes, but a necropsy will be performed by a veterinarian for an exact determination.
Red wolves are similar to medium-sized dogs and, in captivity, live 10 to 15 years.
In December of 2007 Mom Wolf and the male arrived at the Salisbury Zoo. He was from North Carolina Zoological Park and she came from The Virginia Living Museum. Their exhibit opened on Earth Day in April 2008, drawing more than 3,000 visitors.
In a press release issued by the zoo, the red wolf is described as “a powerful symbol of our shared natural heritage, and a reminder of what can be lost if we do not act on behalf of wildlife.”
“Native to the Delmarva Peninsula, the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, a victim of misperceptions and government sponsored hunting. Records from 1681 in Sussex County, Delaware describe a bounty of 50 pounds of tobacco for a wolf’s head,” the press release states.
“The red wolf has been successfully reintroduced to protected areas in eastern North Carolina and is federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Association and The Association of Zoos & Aquariums cooperatively manage the species in the wild and in captivity through the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan,” it states.
Zoo staff will work with the survival plan organization during the next two months to determine how to sustain the captive population and Salisbury’s red wolf program, Seemann said.
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.